A major focus of the 2016 FPA Professionals Congress with be on ethics, and how financial planners can learn to make better ethical decisions.

The chair of the FPA, Neil Kendall, says while a lot has been spoken about ethics training, and while higher standards of ethics are a focus of impending legislation, there needs to be a clear recognition among financial planners that the obligation is ultimately deeply personal.

“One of the messages we would like to get out of this congress is that planners need to understand that we have a personal, ethical obligation,” Kendall says.

“It can’t be outsourced to management, to licensees, to a receptionist or a paraplanner. It’s a personal, ethical obligation. And we have to start to have more tools to start to think about that, and make the right decisions there. The will be one of the focuses of the congress, getting that done.”

Kendall says the idea that financial planning is black and white is “nice but naïve”.

“People come to us and ask us questions that put us in all sorts of emotional and ethical dilemmas,” he says. “This congress is going to focus on that.”

Dan Candura, a US-based Certified Financial Planner, specialises in providing ethics training to financial planers and will be running two sessions at Congress.

Kendall says Candura will be “putting some live, real-life case studies of ethical dilemmas for financial planners: what do you do when you have a decision that is not black and white, when you’ve got to make an ethical decision?”

“He’ll be sharing a number of those and asking for feedback live,” Kendall says.

“I’ve been through a number of these particular session in the US and what was interesting was when he put up four answers, the group didn’t all agree on one. There were four answers and the answers were roughly evenly split – and three of them weren’t appropriate answers.”

Kendall says the case study approach illustrates starkly that ethical decision making is often in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s something we have a long way to go with,” he says.

“We talk about ethics training, and people have been doing it. We’re now talking about some practical implementation of that and giving people examples of practical ethical decision making.”

Andrew Denton will provide a further dimension to the issue of ethics in his keynote address on Friday morning.

“Andrew is going to be talking about euthanasia,” Kendall says.

“Now, that’s an easy one in terms of saying there’s clearly some ethical dilemmas there. So this is an opportunity for financial planners to think about how ethical decisions are made in a different framework.

“It’s a very interesting topic, but it does also illustrate that we’re not the only people who have to make ethical decisions – so do a whole range of other people.

“And Andrew is going to take us on a journey through the ethical decision making in relation to euthanasia. I think that’s going to rove to be very interesting, and also hopefully help people understand that every profession has ethical decisions to make, and how do you make those?”

In addition to the focus on ethics, Kendall says the congress will also ask planners to contemplate the future – for themselves, their businesses and their clients.

“There’s clearly going to be some disruption to the world and we need to be making sure we’re prepared for that,” he says.

“The Australian financial planning environment is gong to be massively different in three years’ time to what it is today and we need to prepare financial planners and their business for what that might look like, and what they need to do to be the sort of planner they need to be in three years’ time.”

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